Speaking to lawmakers on Tuesday, Kylar Broadus, an attorney, professor and activist, become the first-ever openly trans person to give testimony to the Senate.
Broadus (pictured, left), founder of the advocacy group Trans People of Color Coalition, shared his experience being trans in America with lawmakers sitting on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, which was considering a bill that would add LGBT protections to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
In short, Broadus called his experience living as a female who most people thought was actually male, “humiliating and dehumanizing, to say the least.”
“[My] transition was actually a matter of living the truth and sharing the truth with the world, rather than living a lie every day and pretending to be somebody I was not,” he said. “…Even though I had female on my driver’s license, nobody ever saw that. When I would go in to do anything, they would always relate to me as male and never understood I had a female gender marker. Obviously it was tough to navigate security. It was tough to navigate employment, where you have to have matching documentation for your employer.”
He added that most people tended to react with discomfort or hostility toward him, simply due to his appearance. “Again, not my choice, but just who I was and am,” Boradus explained. “When I used female restrooms, police would accost me. I would have to strip and then they would still tell me, ‘Sir, get out of the bathroom,’ when I would use a ladies room. It’s just humiliating and dehumanizing, to say the least. So, after years of navigating these issues, I choose to go with what’s natural for me and… bring my full self to the table to show the world who I am.”
Broadus explained that before beginning his transition from female to male, he was “a workaholic” with solid employment in the world of finance, but that all changed with his appearance. “It was disheartening to me that all this could be pulled out from under me because people were uncomfortable with the person that I am,” he said.
“I suffer from post-traumatic stress from the harassment that I encountered in the workplace from my employer,” Broadus added. “From not being allowed to change my name or use the name I used to not being allowed to wear my hair a certain way, not being allowed to dress as me — all of these things physically impacted me…”
“Not only that, but I was then unemployed,” he added. “To be unemployed is very devastating, humiliating and demoralizing. Then the recovery time — there is no limit on it. I still have not financially recovered… [And] there are many more people like me who are not employed because of who they are.”
The experience, he later told Senators, “will go with me to my grave.”
“Mr. Broadus, thank you very much,” committee chairman Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) said. “I am told by my staff that you were indeed the first transgender individual to ever testify before the U.S. Senate. I’m proud of this committee. I’m proud of the people on this committee who would invite you here, and as chairman and my staff, I thank you for being here and I want to commend you for your courage in being here and being who you are. You’re going to give courage to a lot of other people, so I commend you for that.”
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, was present for the hearing but stepped out into a Senate hallway to speak with Raw Story. On a phone call, she praised the committee’s members for enthusiastically supporting equal rights for all Americans, but cautioned that Republicans in the House are intent on killing the bill.
“This is something I’ve personally been involved in for 12 years, and other people have been involved for longer than that,” she said. “To watch the first openly transgender person testify about a bill we desperately need is really great. And to have somebody who’s a real hero of mine be the one to testify first is remarkable. That it’s a trans man is remarkable. That it’s a trans man of color is remarkable.”
“It’s not going to become law this year — the majority in the House will make sure of that,” she concluded. “But, you know, this is part of the process to get it done. It moves the ball down the field and next time there’s a reasonable majority in charge of both chambers of Congress, [ENDA] is going to pass.”
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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